Now that Governor Carney has ordered schools to remain closed through May 15th, some parents have concerns about the ability of district and charter schools to deliver a quality education over the next two months.
To date, none of the school districts have announced specific plans for the implementation of an academic program to replace classes following spring break.
“My son’s graduation is a big question mark. He’s a senior at A.I. Dupont, and they are not, at this time, doing any remote learning,” said JulieAnne Cross, one of many concerned parents.
Greenville resident Michele Foster said she is still waiting to hear from the Red Clay School District on their plans for instruction going forward. Her son is also a senior at A.I. Dupont High School. “Right now, he says he has no work from the teachers. It’s not like he’s getting something to do every day. So, we’re kind of in limbo,” said Foster.
School superintendents concede that not every student has access to broadband or internet access in their homes. And all students — including English-language learners and children with disabilities — would require access to technology to implement district-wide remote learning. So, transitioning to online classrooms is not a one-size-fits-all scenario.
But with graduation approaching and learning necessary for students to advance to the next grade level, parents are seeking more information on how Delaware schools plan to address these issues.
Red Clay Superintendent Dorrell Green says he has fielded a number of questions from parents over the last week about remote learning.
“We have to be mindful of every child, ensuring equitable access as we look at students with disabilities but also students that might not have the technological resources and broadband or internet access in their homes,” Green said in a video posted to the school district’s social media pages on Sunday night.
Students with no access to internet, computers require education equity
As access to the internet is not equally available for all families, there is significant inconsistency in how public schools can conduct online learning and even monitor and grade student assignments.
According to an Associated Press report from June 2019, 2.97% of Delaware students lack access to the internet, while 16.47% do not have a computer at home. Local libraries provide computers for students to use, but the coronavirus pandemic has shut down libraries to prevent the virus from spreading.
Despite this challenge, some school districts have found ways to provide ‘educational resources’ to students at home.
Brandywine and Christina School Districts have posted voluntary assignments for their students to complete as well as supplementary material from websites such as Khan Academy. Assignment packets are sorted by grade, and alternative versions for students with disabilities are available.
The Brandywine School District has already published a list of resources developed by their curriculum and instruction faculty. “These resources are voluntary but recommended to minimize learning loss and reinforce what students have learned,” said Interim Superintendent Lincoln Hohler.
Delaware school districts have found other ways to help their students during the coronavirus outbreak.
If a family lacks a computer or internet access and complete their homework assignments, the Christina School District plans to hand out printed copies at food distribution locations. These locations provide free meals to children in specified schools — location and pickup times varying by district. Faculty have also devised sample schedules for students in case they struggle managing their time, so they may complete their assignments and their daily chores.
Comcast, other media help students with expanded access, content
Private companies have also modified their services to allow students easier access to education. Comcast has made their Xfinity wifi free to all Americans in range of their hotspots during the pandemic, letting families gain easier access to online programs. They have also included new educational content that includes lectures and history programs.
Other communication and media organizations plan to broaden their content for at-home students. For example, WHYY started broadcasting special programming aligned with educational standards on March 23.
Delaware school districts are still holding meetings with their faculty throughout the next week to determine their next course of action. Educators in Delaware and across the country are facing an unprecedented challenge that will require creativity and diligence to sustain distance learning in ways that keeps students from falling behind.